Efficient Urban Infill Innovations: Efficient Use of Space - Homes Across America Search Return

Efficient Urban Infill




Goals of Innovation:

To utilize an in-town lot by rebuilding and adding to an existing three-car garage resulting in a comfortable and efficient home.

To realize the resource and time efficiencies of in-town living and to avoid developing previously undeveloped suburban or rural land.

Description: This home successfully provides for a comfortable living environment with the use of ingenuity and creatively designed spaces. Two bays of the garage were rebuilt; the third bay was restored (by jacking and building a new foundation) to preserve the "grandfathered" footprint outside the allowable building setback. The roof angle of the garage was raised slightly and a dormer added to create a second floor without significantly changing the scale and appearance of the structure from the street. Behind the garage, a similar though slightly larger and higher addition was constructed. The combined structures make almost full use of the available building area on the site. Behind the house, there is a terrace defined by low stone walls and screened with tall planting.

A function of the setback geometry is the unique, non-rectilinear plan of the addition. This became an opportunity to create some interesting angles (and resulting furniture arrangements). A stair element connects the renovated garage with the addition. With its own large dormer, the stair brings light into the middle of the living spaces.

The first floor contains an entry, a large living area, and adjoining kitchen and eating areas. The living area is generous but seems even larger because the plan and section have long diagonal dimensions in several directions. Windows were carefully placed to maximize sunlight without compromising privacy. Most spaces receive a surprising amount of sunlight for a structure on a small urban lot. Walls in the living and dining areas have built-in slots for picture hangers so the owner can easily change displays of his and collected artwork.

Upstairs, there is an efficient bathroom, a relatively large master bedroom, and a utility room, which serves as the owner’s darkroom. It could be easily changed into a dressing room, a nursery, another bathroom, or the two rooms could be reconfigured into bedrooms. The loft has a study and a guest sleeping area. The custom designed railings also serve as book shelves, seats, and display surfaces.

Obstacles: Due to the location of this home on a small infill lot as well as within a historic district, requirements by the local planning agency restricted the layout and choice of exterior materials. Materials may have been chosen that were more environmentally sound given the opportunity. Three parking spaces were required even though the home is located within walking distance of most anything required or desired. The relation of the home to the neighbors created challenges in creating a daylit home without compromising privacy. These obstacles were endured or overcome with creativity.

Cost Information: Building on a tight urban site required more time for design and permitting, slightly raising the cost of the home. But, the overall cost was competitive with houses of similar detail and finish.

Additional Benefits/Drawbacks: Due to the small square footage, approximately 1,600 square feet of living space, as well as the super-insulated construction, the boiler was smaller than would be typically required for a conventional 2-bedroom home.

For more ideas on efficient smaller home design visit The Not So Big House, website of Architect Sarah Susanka.

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